DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Space to Lead

Written by: on January 22, 2015

In her book Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence, MaryKate Morse stresses the importance of leadership, not just for a select group of individuals, but for everyone. Morse asserts, “God did not design us to be benchwarmers; we are all players. And since we are all part of this great game, with one great mission-to be Christ’s light to a dark world-everyone gets to play. Everyone needs to play”.[1] Too often, leadership is reserved for a few individuals that make decisions for those who follow. It is easy to see how people in authority can assert their own agendas without fully realizing the consequences for those who must live with the decisions. It is also easy to view power as a necessary evil. We need power to lead. This power may come from natural charisma to influence others or an appointed position of authority over other individuals. Morse points out that power is neither good nor evil, it is neutral. It can be used for good or evil depending on the person who holds it. “Power is a neutral, natural and necessary component of influencing and leadership.”[2]

Power in the Church is often viewed as a negative. Countless books have been written in which the villain is a high-ranking clergy member. Whether it is The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas or recent Hollywood movies, the image of a corrupt and powerful church leader is no stranger. What makes matters worse is the fact that this image is not just fiction, but an all too frequently occurring reality. This may be part of the reason servant leadership is often viewed as being devoid of power. The humble servant will sometimes avoid taking on roles in which he or she will hold greater power. Morse points out that, “Power is God’s gift. Powerlessness is not a virtue; rather, using power to help the powerless is. This is the true meaning of servant leadership.”[3] The true mark of a servant leader is in the ability to use power to empower others.

Along with understanding power, the leader must also understand the use of space. “Without having presence in a group, there is little or no influence.”[4] Morse shares great real-life examples of how individuals can use space to either exert their power over others or serve others through inviting them to use their gifts and abilities. As I read Making Room for Leadership, I reflected on the truth of this concept. I have witnessed people exert themselves on others in both formal and informal settings to the detriment of the group. What I had not thought about was the fact that the group actually ceded power and leadership to these individuals. The group actually gives leadership, often without realizing it. I have sat in numerous church meetings in which someone uses space to bully others. By better understanding the dynamics of space, the godly leader can identify and address the improper use of space and help create space for others. The servant leader can also begin to exercise leadership and influential power without waiting to be appointed to the “role” of leadership.

One final observation from Morse, “It’s not very common to find overweight people in significant leadership roles.”[5] Ouch! This underscores the reality that leadership is not simply about ability, it involves human prejudices and emotions. All of these things must be taken into account when a person gets off the bench and seeks to be a leader.

 

[1] MaryKate Morse, Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2008), location 1511.

[2] Ibid., Location 512

[3] Ibid., Location 518.

[4] Ibid., Location 801.

[5] Ibid., Location 947.

About the Author

mm

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

9 responses to “Space to Lead”

  1. Travis Biglow says:

    God bless you Brian,

    I believe in servant leadership they it is described in your post. The name of my church is Victory Empowerment Center. As the Lord was giving me a vision for the church it was to not shy away from power or great leadrship positions, but to be ready to empower others with that power. I have used servant leadership in some of my assignments but kind of got away from it a little but it is the real way we should lead. This does not mean we dont have any power like some people try to understand it. But it is being in the position of power and utilizing it to bring out the most and the best in those we lead. Jesus was the most powerful person who came to this earth and he said “he came not to be served but to serve.” Blessings Brian

    • mm Brian Yost says:

      “As the Lord was giving me a vision for the church it was to not shy away from power or great leadrship positions, but to be ready to empower others with that power.”
      Travis, what a great vision of leadership! It seems that the vision for many churches is to attract leaders rather than develop leadership in the people God has already brought to the church.

  2. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Brian, I love the redefining of servant leadership going on. “The true mark of a servant leader is in the ability to use power to empower others.” It’s not running from power but using our power to serve others interests instead of just our own. Thanks for highlighting that.

    I also really appreciated your paragraph on leaders needing to be aware of space. When someone comes into a meeting and bullies others around we can’t just play the victim card. I need to own the fact that I gave up my space in that situation and do a better job leading next time.

    Thanks Brian!

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Nick,
      You said “When someone comes into a meeting and bullies others around we can’t just play the victim card. I need to own the fact that I gave up my space in that situation and do a better job leading next time.”

      As I read both your post and Brian’s, I thought about different scenarios that I’ve been in throughout my career. In a group, there is typically a leader and those who follow. However, in cases where a person is using negative power to lead, we must exert our influence to mitigate abuse of the followers. Throughout my career as a consultant, I’ve seen people abuse their power and people who follow out of fear or duress. In these cases, I’ve had to use my own power and influence carefully to mitigate and change the situation. At times, these situations are awkward and uncomfortable. We can’t play the innocent bystander either.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, I agree, church funny arena to look at when it comes to power. I think there is a case to be made that some churches are some of the worst abusers of power by creating a guilt based, shame following of a dominant leader with a group of subordinate and submissive followers. I love your line, “The true mark of a servant leader is in the ability to use power to empower others.” Using power to empower rather than repress followers should be the culture of leadership in the church and truly Christ-following based organizations.

    • mm Brian Yost says:

      “churches are some of the worst abusers of power by creating a guilt based, shame following of a dominant leader with a group of subordinate and submissive followers.”
      Strong words from a fellow Michigander. You bring up a good point. In the secular world people can disagree with a power-hungry leader but it the church people sometimes feel guilty, disloyal or shameful if they disagree with a pastor or leader that everyone else has bought into.

      • Dawnel Volzke says:

        So true Brian…too many leaders in Christian environments are left alone as they abuse their power. And, too many Christian leaders are getting into bad situations when their power get’s out of control. Where there is no accountability, there is increased risk for abuse of power.

  4. mm Dave Young says:

    Brian,
    Physical presence plays into how others perceive the leader. As you said “This underscores the reality that leadership is not simply about ability, it involves human prejudices and emotions.” Assuming we’re acting as or moving into leadership, how are we to deal with the internal prejudices and emotions of other is our group, community or church? This strikes home, I once had an extremely powerful woman in my church tell me at a dinner party, in front of everyone, that I reminded her of her ex-fiancée who literally left her at the alter, and caused her Christian community to turn away from her. I had done nothing to offend her, it was how I looked and it was that I was the pastor. A position her ex-fiancee aspired toward. Without a word I had three strikes against me. Your highlight on the emotions and prejudices is valuable and deserves further reflection. Thanks

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